Talking it Out: When to Turn to Friends, Peer Mentors and Therapists

05.20.2022

Talking it Out: When to Turn to Friends, Peer Mentors and Therapists

Dear teens:

The worst thing you can do is bury the nagging feelings that make it hard to enjoy life. Even the smallest, most trivial worries can mushroom into debilitating fears. And who has time for that?

It’s important to intentionally make time for talking. Yes, talking!

Talking with someone you trust is a low stress, low commitment way to get things off your chest. Lots of people tend to do this naturally, but it’s not easy for everyone. Here are three ideas to get started:

  1. Chat with family or friends.

Who are your cheerleaders? The ones who love you? This is the first stop on the talk-it-out journey because being open is an important part of building a trusting relationship. Even when you’ve got a good foundation of trust, it can still be hard to get in the right headspace to be vulnerable. But give it a try. Most friends and family members will jump right to solutions, so be prepared to receive advice, and know that you may not always agree with it.

  1. Connect with a peer mentor.

Unlike traditional mentoring programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, cross-age peer mentoring pairs youth with other (slightly older) youth who have genuine interest in lending an ear and helping others. For example, UpStreet connects teens in Western Pennsylvania via a texting platform to trained peer mentors who go to a different school. You might be surprised to learn there are peer mentoring programs set up to help cope with specific situations, from learning differences to gang pressures. Peer mentoring is growing in popularity but may take some sleuthing to find the right fit. Your school counselor is a good place to start, and Mentoring.org’s search tool is another good starting point for ideas. There, you can search by zip code and select “Peer” to find the right type of mentor.

  1. Talk to a therapist.

Recent stats from public health authorities show that one out of every ten kids have received counseling or therapy. Talking to a professional is a good idea when you’re dealing with issues that are more than you can handle or that are stopping you from doing things you normally enjoy. Sometimes, only a few sessions with a therapist can make a huge impact and help you get back on track.

There is a key difference between talking to friends or family and talking to peer mentors or therapists. With peer mentors and therapists, there is a big focus on boundaries to keep the relationship working. The engagements are focused on you—unpacking your challenges and working on your overall well-being. Unlike a friendship or family members, it’s more of a one-way street.

About

UpStreet is a mental wellness program that offers free drop-in consultations with therapists, scheduled therapy appointments, text-based peer support, and support groups for teens ages 12-22. UpStreet aims to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health support, to avoid escalation of symptoms to a crisis stage, and enhance teens’ quality of life. Reach out to an UpStreet team member now using the chat bot located at the bottom of the page.

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